DOUG FORD BLINKED. He cancelled his retroactive cuts in Ontario. It is the first brief shaft of light in the dark days that are the Ford government in Ontario.
The public opposition to his cuts was more than even Ford wanted to take on. He faced massive opposition from municipalities, ordinary citizens and unions when he announced retroactive cuts to public health, paramedics and other services provided by towns and cities across the province. There were protests and rallies and petitions, one organized by the City of Toronto itself.
Ford’s ‘people’ broke ranks
But what really swayed Ford and his new conservative government was likely that his own “people,” those that he claims he’s working for, actually rebelled. They too were against broad cuts to services that they absolutely need in their communities.
Small town mayors and councils from many rural and suburban communities that had voted for Ford started to scream about losing those services. Recent poll numbers confirmed this with over 40% of his own party supporters disapproving of his actions. Doug Ford’s approval numbers were, gasp, just about the same as Kathleen Wynne before she got turfed in the last election.
All good news, right? Well, not so fast. The Ford government has backed away from making these cuts retroactively, which means that this year’s budgets will be okay. But they still plan the same cuts to public health, childcare and other forms of municipal funding starting next year.
That leaves municipal governments about six months to come up with a plan to deal with these cutbacks. So it will still sting just the same, but you’ll have more time to plan for the coming pain.
Three important lessons
This latest misadventure by the Ford government in Ontario reinforces three important lessons.
- One, public pressure matters. They would not have backed away if they didn’t feel the heat.
- Two, is that political pressure matters even more, especially if it comes from those who were seen as Ford’s political base. Small town mayors and councils were just as effective, maybe more than Toronto Mayor John Tory, who’s claiming victory, in overturning the retro cuts.
- Three, this is a bump in the road, but certainly not the end of the cutbacks in programs and services that Doug Ford has in mind for Ontario.
Ford and his gang have no real plan, except to cut money and to wipe out any social gains that workers, students, and the most vulnerable in society have been able to make in recent years.
Their goal is to reduce government expenditures in order to provide a massive tax cut to their rich friends and large private corporations. This has already started. In their first budget they cut programs and services but still managed to find almost $4 billion in tax handouts for the most-wealthy in Ontario.
‘Steal from the needy. Give to the greedy.’
We have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this government’s agenda to help the rich and hurt everybody else. A reverse Robin Hood effect. We agree with OPSEU President Smokey Thomas’s assessment of the Ford government. He said they “steal from the needy and give to the greedy.”
What’s next? There are more cuts coming. That is a guarantee. When they come, we have to fight back, but no all by ourselves. We have to work equally hard to become allies with those who will be affected. And not only our usual pals and friends.
We need to connect big cities with small towns who will all lose if public health is cut. We need city dwellers to talk to rural folks who are worried about their paramedic services. We need to build community coalitions and partnerships that reach across party lines and focus on why we all benefit from a strong public library system.
Time is of the essence and we have none to waste.
Stand Up. Fight Back. Don’t Give Up.